Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD

Whether you've been diagnosed with diabetes or not, there are plenty of good reasons to know about blood sugar levels and what is considered normal. In particular, people with diabetes need to know blood sugar norms to balance their exercise, medication, and food intake to ensure that their blood sugar levels remain at an acceptable range. Having diabetes means the body no longer does a good enough job of managing this task on its own, without a little extra help. Understanding how to self-monitor your blood glucose is crucial to maintaining your health as someone living with diabetes.

Keeping Complications at Bay:

One of the main reasons to keep your blood sugar under control is that it will help you keep various complications of diabetes at bay. If your blood sugar levels are consistently too high, this is associated with a range of problems, including diseases of the kidneys, eyes, extremities, brain and more. These parts of the body are full of very small blood vessels and nerves that can easily suffer damage as a result of long-term exposure to excess sugar in the bloodstream. The longer your blood sugar remains high, the more severe the damage can to these various organs, as well as the blood vessels that serve them. Measuring and managing your blood glucose levels will help to delay and potentially prevent such complications from emerging.

Understanding the Value of your Medications:

Being able to track and understand blood sugar levels will also help you to figure out just how effective your medication is in keeping your glucose levels under control. If you have diabetes and the medicine or treatments you are using aren't helping you to keep your sugar levels in the right range, then you and your doctor might have to take the next steps and your treatment regimen might need to be adjusted. Regular testing gives you and your doctor valuable information about the effectiveness of your medications and the impact of a particular dose or regimen on your diabetes.

Preventing Potential Emergencies:

For people with diabetes, it is not just your food intake, medications and activity levels that factor into the blood sugar equation—though these three are clearly critical factors to consider. However, people with diabetes can find that their blood sugar levels spin out of control from other influences, such as significant levels of stress, new medications, or an acute illness. In these situations, testing your glucose levels and making sure that they remain in a good range can help you to take the appropriate steps to maintaining your health before blood sugar amounts become too high.

Testing is also important with respect to the other end of the spectrum: low blood sugar. This is particularly true if you take certain medications for type 2 diabetes including insulins. If you test your levels before and after exercise, you can make sure that you don't end up with a dangerously low blood sugar levels. If you drink alcohol, testing frequently is also important, as alcohol is often responsible for lowering the blood sugar level and other changes in your metabolism that may throw things off from what you are used to.

Look After Your Heart and Brain:

The heart, brain, and other important organs are all influenced by diabetes over the long term and by how well you can get your blood sugar under control. Uncontrolled, diabetes raises your risk of heart attacks, stroke and dementia. With frequent testing and good control of blood sugar levels, however, you can reduce your risk of many of the complications of diabetes.